News Cast 12/10

News Cast for December 10th:

Okeechobee County Commissioners will meet this morning and they will hear a presentation from representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) regarding proposed safety improvements to State Road 70 from 441 to 15th Street. They will also be getting a briefing from local health department officials on the status of the COVID-19 in the county and they’ll hear from the county airport director on a plan for improvements to the Okeechobee Commerce Park entrance. The meeting will begin at nine o’clock in the Historic County Courthouse. Seating in the courthouse will be limited due to social distancing guidelines. The meeting will be streamed live on the commissioners’ website.

Speaking of the Okeechobee County Commissioners, while the process has begun in finding a new county administrator to succeed Robbie Chartier when she steps down next month, the commissioners didn’t have to look very far when deciding on who will fill the position on an interim basis as they tapped Deputy County Administrator Louis Johnson to do just that. Commissioners chose Johnson to be the interim Okeechobee County Administrator during their November 25th meeting and Johnson will begin his new role on January 20th, exactly one day after Chartier serves her last day on the job. Johnson says he was “totally elated” when selected to be the interim county administrator and proud that the commission has the confidence in him to appoint him to that post and it’s a position he does not take lightly, saying he’s very intent on keeping the county moving forward. Johnson says while he realizes he can never fill Chartier’s shoes, he’s learned a great deal from her and he’ll take that into his new role come next month.

Johnson, who was hired by Chartier in January of 2019 following a stint as Operations Manager in Palm Beach Gardens, says he’ll be focusing on economic development, the county airport and roads and bridges. Chartier, who announced her resignation on October 15th after almost ten years as county administrator, will take on the job of executive director of Public Risk Management in Florida.

For much of this week, the Okeechobee County Code Enforcement Department has been in the Douglas Park area launching what has been called the next neighborhood enhancement effort. This effort is to help property owners in Douglas Park stay in compliance with county regulations and improve the appearance of the neighborhood. Code Enforcement has been inspecting properties, checking for any violations such as trash, overgrown grass and more on properties. District 3 County Commissioner Brad Goodbread, whose district includes Douglas Park, says he’s glad county code enforcement officials are focusing not just on cleaning up Douglas Park, but all areas of the county, something that he and his fellow commissioners set out to do a few years ago. Goodbread says the county funded the addition of more new code enforcement officers to help accomplish this but he says this doesn’t mean that the county’s code enforcement department has become “heavy-handed”.

Goodbread says even before this cleanup effort began this week, he has been involved in cleanup himself in Douglas Park, in some cases cleaning out truck full after truck full of debris and he wants that to continue in other areas in the community.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Okeechobee County once again increased yesterday by eleven, but the number of fatalities remained steady. As of yesterday morning, courtesy of the FL Department of Health, Okeechobee County has 2,128 positive cases of the Coronavirus since March, and fatalities still number at 45. 2,114 people diagnosed with the virus are local residents and their ages range from infant to one hundred with the median age of the patients being an even forty. Hospitalized county residents are numbering at 218 as that figure again rose by two. Those who’ve tested positive are being cooperative with the county and their health providers and going through routine contact tracing. Along with fever, coughing and shortness of breath, other COVID-19 symptoms to watch out for include chills, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat and a sudden loss of sense of smell or sense of taste.

As of yesterday morning, officials from the state health department are reporting 1,083,362 positive COVID-19 cases since March and 1,065,476 of those are FL residents. Florida’s death toll is at 19,462 with 57,210 people hospitalized.

Okeechobee County residents can be tested, by appointment only, for the Coronavirus at the County Health Department between the hours of eight o’clock in the morning and two o’clock in the afternoon. This is an oral swab test. The Florida Community Health Centers have a drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing site available every Tuesday and Thursday from eight o’clock in the morning until noon at the former Okeechobee Surgery Center located at 1655 Highway 441 North. No appointment is necessary and you don’t need insurance, but if you have it, please bring your insurance card, otherwise please bring photo identification. Testing is free in both locations.

If you have any questions related to the virus itself, you can direct them to the Okeechobee County Health Department at (863) 462-5800 or the 24/7 Department of Health hotline at (866) 779-6121. The local health department offers COVID-19 testing every Monday thru Friday for first responders and for those who have symptoms.

Remember, the key to avoiding the Coronavirus is good personal hygiene. Washing your hands for at least 20-30 seconds with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it is recommended. Avoid touching your eyes or face with unwashed hands. Practice social distancing by keeping at least six feet away from someone when greeting them and not shaking any hands. Avoid shopping at peak hours and use delivery services instead.  Avoid places where there are 10 people or more.

If you need further information about the virus and recommendations for preventing it, please log on to the Department of Health at floridahealth.gov or the Center for Disease Control at cdc.gov.

On the arrest report:

29 year old Mitchell Arthur Dean of Okeechobee was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on several counts of contempt of court for failing to answer for several charges of petit theft. His bond is set at $75 hundred dollars.

38 year old April Lee Murray of Okeechobee was arrested for violating probation on previous charges of felony driving on a suspended license. She’s being held without bond.

32 year old Christie Juracit Shockley of Okeechobee was arrested on multiple counts of contempt of court for failing to answer for several charges of possession of controlled substances without a prescription and violating probation on several charges of drug possession. She’s being held without bond.

32 year old Justin Michael Watson of Okeechobee was arrested on battery charges and possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia. His bond is set at $65 hundred dollars.

36 year old Mitchell Raymond Slack of Palm Bay was arrested for drunk driving after a traffic stop and field sobriety test. His bond is set at five hundred dollars.